Saturday 26 November 2011


Anyanwu is a world auction record for Enwonwu

 By Tajudeen Sowole
 At 28 million Naira, a bronze sculpture by Ben Enwonwu sold at ArtHouse Contemporary auction in Lagos few days ago beats the artist’s Negritude (16 million naira), sale from Bonhams, in London in 2009.

  Also, in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a debut auction recorded over 70 per cent of the lots sold at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre. The auction, a joint venture by two Lagos-based art groups, Terra Kulture and Mydrim Gallery, showed that in the next few years, the Abuja art market could be as big as that of Lagos.

  A few days after the Abuja auction, the hub of the nation’s art scene, Lagos, however, reaffirmed its high rating as ArtHouse Contemporary’s seventh edition recorded N28 million (£125, 000) sale of Anyanwu (142.2 cm., excluding the base, 1956) a masterpiece sculpture by Ben Enwonwu. 

Anyanwu, 142.2 cm., excluding the base, 1956

  At N28m, Anyanwu is an auction record for Enwonwu, even at the international art market. The artist’s last auction record was £66, 000 (N16 million naira) for a 1957 piece titled Negritude (acrylic and watercolour on card (120 x 75 cm), sold at Bonhams, London, U.K., in 2009.

  Anyanwu is one of the most popular works of Enwonwu. A small-scale size of the work is part of the embellishment of the National Museum Onikan, Lagos. The artist made quite a number of the works in different scales.

   In Abuja, master printmaker, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya’s ‘Sahelian Masquerade Panel 4’, etching 59 x 87 inch (1987) was the highest sold at N4 million.

  From the three days’ preview, to the auction day proper, the attitude of collectors in Abuja showed that in a city of civil servants and politicians, spending big in public has to be done with caution. And the strategy, so it appeared, was to spend without being present.

  Although absentee and representative biddings are not uncommon in art auction, however, the Abuja example seemed like a rare one as nearly all the works were sold through these two means. In fact, the bidders present were mostly women, who, according to sources, bought on behalf of some big politicians and government officials.

  The passion for art appreciation is fast gaining ground in the city, one of the bidders disclosed during a chat while responding to the issue of low art collecting in Abuja. As one of the prominent buyers of the day, she said, “I started collecting art just two years ago”.    

  Given the widely perceived low art market in Abuja, Terra Kulture and Mydrim’s announcement of taking auction to the federal capital was seen as a bold, uncertain venture. “We are aware that it’s a bold step, full of risk too,” the managing director of Terra Kulture, Bolanle Austen-Peters remarked a few days before leading the team to Abuja.  She, however, insisted that it was worth giving a trial.

  Proprietress of Mydrim Gallery, Sinmidele Ogunsanya, who addressed the bidders, disclosed that in the last few years, works bought in Nigeria had been sold at auctions in Europe and the U.S. at higher value. She argued that Abuja should not be left out of this non-oil export, and commended the bidders “for being part of the historic first art auction in Abuja”.
MD of Terra Kulture, Bolanle Austen-Peters (left) and minister of petroleum Diezani Madueke during the Abuja auction preview, November 2011
   Austen-Peters noted that “though art collecting appeared like a social passion, it is actually an investment”.

  Although it took about 10 works before the auctioneer, Yemisi Shyllon sold the first work of seven digits, his hammer thereafter continued to be in action until the audience thinned out towards the end of the last lot. “It’s a success, we sold more than 60 percent,” he declared as he stepped down from the terrace of the open hall. The next morning, he disclosed, enthusiastically that “some works were bought after the auction, increasing the total sold to 62, a figure that represents over 70 percent of the lots”.

 Supported by Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Abuja auction is likely to have another edition as there was indication that the Terra Kulture-Mydrim team would continue exploring the art market scene of the federal capital. Ogunsanya said though it was too early to make a definite pronouncement on a return to Abuja, “we will decide soon on either to make it once or twice a year”.
                 Bruce Onobrakpeya's Sahelian Masquerade Panel 4, etching 59 x 87 inch (1987) N4m

  In Lagos, the build-up to the Kavita Chellaram-led ArtHouse auction started with a private preview a day after Shyllon’s last hammer fell in Abuja. At The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos, the 107 works on display showed that the seventh edition was the richest in quality compared to the previous sales. And on Monday, at the same venue, the megabucks started rolling in as masters such as Enwonwu, Akinola Lasekan (1916-1972), Kolade Oshinowo, Ghanaian Prof. Ablade Glover, Biodun Olaku, Ben Osaghae and Duke Asidere had impressive sales; the younger artists also made their marks.
Former Director-General of National Gallery of Art (NGA), Chief Joe Musa and CEO ArtHouse Contemporary Ltd, Mrs Kavita Chellaram during the Lagos auction preview, November 2011.
   In continuation of ArtHouse’s charity sales segment, seven works were auctioned to support mixed media master, David Dale, who recently recovered from a stroke. About N1.8m was raised through the sales of seven works for the artist. Obiora Anidi’s Family Man, David Dale’s Safari, Flamingoes and Crown Cranes and Bride of Hope, Okosun Odion’s Mask, Alade Adebanji’s Portrait of A Man and Inyang Nse-Abasi’s Untitled were the works sold as charity lots.

  The charity sales was introduced into the auction of ArtHouse during the fifth edition last year when it supported an initiative of the wife of former Governor of Cross Rivers State, Onari Duke. Also at the sixth edition early this year, the auction house sold charity lots to support Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation’s (BOF) annual art event, Harmattan Workshop. 
Koma Village (1987), oil on canvas, 122 x 152.5 cm.) byKolade Oshinowo sold at N2.5m.

  Mrs. Chellaram stated that the auction house’s sponsor of young sculptor, Richardson Ovbiebo’s solo art exhibition is an extension of the organisation’s support for artists. In fact, she assured that every year, ArtHouse would sponsor one art exhibition.

Top Five of Terra Kulture-Mydrim Abuja auction 2011

 1. Bruce Onobrakpeya

Sahelian Masquerade Panel 4, etching 59 x 87 inch (1987) N4m.

2. Kolade Oshinowo

African Woman, mixed media, 53 x 33 inch, (2011). N2m.

3. Segun Aiyesan

Coloured Race, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 96, (2011) N1.5m

4. Kolade Oshinowo

Home at Sunset, oil on canvas 39 x 39 inch, (2011). N1.2m.

5. Fidelis Odogwu

Kalakuta Republic, metal, 44 x 31 inch (2010) N900, 000.

Top Ten for ArtHouse Contemporary Lagos auction

1.   Ben Enwonwu’s Anyanwu (142.2 cm., excluding the base, 1956) N28m

2.    Ben Enwonwu’s Untitled (1980, oil on board, 109.2 x 43.2 cm), N8m.

3.    Ben Enwonwu’s Untitled (1980, cold cast resin, 112 cm), N5.5m

4.    Ben enwonwu’s Untitled ( 1972, oil on canvas, 61 x 51 cm), N4.5m.

5.   Chidi Kwubiri’s Town Crier (2011, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 250 cm. was next at N2.6m.

6.    Kolade Oshinowo’s Koma Village (1987), oil on canvas, 122 x 152.5 cm.) N2.5m.

7.    Akinola Lasekan’s Portrait Of A Man (1956), oil on board, 122 x 85.4 cm. N2m.

8.    Sokari Douglas Camp’s
Bucket Heads,
(2010), steel, 73 cm., N1.7m.
      9.    Ghanaian master Ablade Glover’s Untitled, (2004), oil         on canvas, 101.5 x 152.5 cm., N1.7m and Ben Osawe  Untitled, (Wood, 93 Cm. 1998)

10. Abiodun Olaku’s Eyo Adimu (1993), oil on canvas, 90 x 68 cm., N1.6m.

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